Archive for the 'Travel' Category

Jun 15 2008

Top 3′s!

Published by under Travel

All too often during our travels, we often found ourselves stuck on cramped, smelly buses for unusually long stretches of time. And whenever the iPods gave out and motion sickness prevented reading, we turned to entertaining ourselves by constructing “Top 3″ lists. Top 3 countries for natural beauty, Top 3 ice cream joints, Top 3 scam artists… you name it. We continue to create and tweak these lists now that we’re home, but simply arguing with each other over the best choices has grown dull. We’ve reached a harmonic consensus on too many selections, and we know we’ll simply never agree on certain others. Time to shake things up! And what better way to do that than post some of our Top 3 lists right here for your inspection and consideration? So, if you disagree with any of these brilliant selections, we expect to hear about it. Just know that you’re definitely wrong.

Top 3 Places to Build a New Life
1. Chiang Mai, Thailand
2. Aix-en-Provence, France
3. Chania, Crete, Greece

Top 3 Big Cities
1. Rome, Italy
2. Prague, Czech Republic
3. Contested. Brittany says Paris, Ben says Barcelona.

Top 3 Foodie Countries
1. Italy
2. Thailand
3. Greece

Top 3 Beers
1. Kozel Dark! (Czech Republic)
2. Beerlao (Laos)
3. Leffe (Belgium… yeah, we got it in France)

Top 3 Naturally Beautiful Countries
1. Laos
2. Greece
3. Spain (Andalucia clinched it)

Top 3 Most Frustrating Places to Travel (not that we don’t love ya, anyway…)
1. Vietnam
2. Paris
3. London (We spent FIFTY BUCKS on a round-trip metro ride. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN?)

Top 3 Street Foods
1. Gyros (Greece)
2. Rotee, aka “pancakes” (SE Asia)
3. Fried bananas (Thailand)

Top 3 Friendliest Peoples
1. Thai
2. Portuguese
3. Australians (And we didn’t even go to Australia. THAT’S friendly.)

Top 3 Best Architecture
1. Barcelona, Spain (this is why. Also this. And the lobster.
2. Rome, Italy
3. Paris, France

Top 3 Ruins
1. Knossos (Crete, Greece)
2. Angkor Wat (Cambodia)
3. Pompeii (Italy)

And finally, some supplementary statistics…

# of times pickpocketed: 0

# of times Brittany got yelled at in a foreign language: 4

# of toilets Ben clogged with his self-proclaimed “giant American poos”: infinity

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Jun 05 2008

Tales We Never Told: So what DO Europeans think of Americans?

Published by under Travel,Virginia

After the dozenth person told us we needed to attach a Canadian flag to our backpacks while traveling around Europe, I became curious. How bad would it be? Why do I have to pretend I’m not American? Do Europeans really hate us that much?

In short, no. Most people we met were able to separate any feelings they may have towards the American government from their perception of its people. That said, George W. is widely mocked. We rarely introduced ourselves as Americans without getting a comment or two about Dubya – to the point where I wanted to start every conversation with, “Hello, my name is Brittany, I’m from the United States, and I DID NOT VOTE FOR HIM, thankyouverymuch.” (Oh, there was also this guy).

We obstinately refused to wear maple leaves on our luggage, and we had no major problems. Sure, I encountered lots of people that were surprised I wasn’t a gun-toting, lawsuit-happy, Bible-thumping, socially-conservative cowboy. They can’t help it—their media depicts Americans that way. And I was more than happy to assure them that, no, I promise, we’re not all like that.

But there was ONE guy…

During our tour of Halong Bay, our group—a mix of Australians, Canadians, Irish, English, Malaysians and, of course, two awesome Americans—stopped on a beach to have a picnic lunch. The conversation was pleasant and fun, aside from an irritating British man at the other end of the table who would loudly state well-known facts as if he discovered them. “Did you know that the skin is the body’s largest organ?” he’d say proudly. “Yes, I read that in a science journal.”

We largely tuned him out, and talked to the cool Aussies and Canadians around us.

There was one moment, though, when there was a brief lull in conversation. Mr. Science Journal took advantage of this opportunity.

“I mean, I can understand voting Bush into office once, because how could they know?” he said, his voice heavy with condescension. “But the fact that they re-elected him really makes me call into question their intelligence and what kind of people they really are.”

No one said a word. Aware of the presence of two Americans (well, everyone but him, who hadn’t bothered to talk to us), everyone looked down nervously, avoiding our gaze. An awkward silence fell.

Eventually, Ben broke the silence:

“God, I hate Americans,” he said.

The table burst into laughter, with the exception of Mr. Science Journal. In Ben’s words, “I think I succeeded in making an ass out of THAT guy.”

There’s very little you can say about America that will offend me. I have enough of my own criticisms to appreciate that other people might be critical of government as well. But this guy’s personal remarks and unapologetic generalizations rubbed me the wrong way. It was the one instance during our trip that I had to suppress the urge to defend my country.

Before I end this, I want to tell one more anecdote that will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy on the inside about Uncle Sam.

Back on Crete, we met a Danish dude named Nikolaus, who’d spent time in Florida, where he had family. His first impression of the States, he told us, was confusion over the extreme number of rules we have; rules that seemed silly to him. No, you can’t walk here! That would be trespassing. And God forbid you show a beer bottle in public!

“It’s like you fear all the time!” he said. “Americans are scared. What are you afraid of?”

This perception was accentuated when he visited the local Walmart to register for a fishing license. He’d brought his passport, his visa, and several other travel documents and forms of identification. However, because he didn’t specifically have an American driver’s license, the Walmart employee would not issue him a fishing license.

Irritated, Nikolaus argued with and questioned her, but she wouldn’t budge.

“She would not use her brain!” he said, getting annoyed as he remembered it. “She just followed the rules without thinking!”

As he was about to storm out angrily, Nikolaus noticed racks of guns lining the wall. “So I can’t get a fishing license,” he said. “But, if I wanted, could I buy a gun?”

“Well, yeah,” the employee said. “Of course.”

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Jun 02 2008

A retroactive disclaimer

Published by under Travel

Since being home and catching up with friends, family, and co-workers, we’ve made an unexpected discovery: everyone thinks that we spent our entire journey drunk.

The first couple of times I heard someone make a reference to our trip as a “drunken whirlwind,” I dismissed it as a joke. But then it became clear that everyone seemed to have a comment about the stark lack of sobriety during our eight months. After the nineteenth person chimed in, it was officially a trend. Confused, we tried to figure out where people would have gotten such an idea.

Looking back over our history of blog posts, I think I see what’s going on. Alcohol, in its many forms, does get more shout-outs on this blog than I had realized. And upon arriving in a new country or region, we absolutely made a point of sampling the local spirit of choice. Which tends to make for good stories, and in turn ends up on our blog.

When my mother told me that friends and extended family members were worried that I was being a bad influence on their children, I have to admit that I found the idea thrilling. Me? A bad influence? To give you some context, just know that my entire life has been a hopeless struggle against my unshakable social image: a nerdier version of Cory Matthews. And now, all of a sudden, you’re telling me that I finally get to be Shawn Hunter? I mean… I don’t even know what to say! Do the black leather jacket and devil-may-care attitude come standard?*

If I’d only known the new image I was cultivating back home, I probably would have blown all of my savings on liquor and hair gel. And started some bar fights to get some edgier material for our Flickr page. But the truth of the matter (whether good, bad, or disappointingly healthy) is that drunkenness was a luxury largely outside of our financial means. We didn’t sleep in crowded 12-bunk hostel bedrooms because we like playing Russian Roulette with the nightly possibility of contracting bedbugs. We did it because we were broke. Broke by American standards, which is to say that European beggars looked up from their tin cups to pity us with alms. And ever since alms were made obsolete by the euro in 2002, we might as well have been trying to buy wine with wooden nickels.

Which was cool with us. We’re not heavy drinkers anyway, and there was too much to see and do in eight months to spend our time passed out on bar floors. The reason I wanted to write this disclaimer is for the benefit of others who will come after us. If we have given the impression that the best frame of mind for exploring the world is a drunken one, then I think we have done a disservice. As someone who enjoys beer and wine, I would encourage like-minded travelers to sample what the world has to offer, just like I would encourage you to sample local foods and customs. But beyond that, plan on saving your alms for hostels, ferry rides, and bizarre puppet shows. You’ll be able to stay abroad longer, and as a bonus, you’ll actually remember your trip when you get back home!

But if, by some chance, you find yourself finally moving from Screech Powers to Zach Morris in the eyes of those back home… and you manage to succeed where I failed by making this realization BEFORE your trip is actually over… well, you know what to do my friend. And when you have to come home six months early because you blew all your money on speed, I’ll be the first in line at the airport to congratulate you.

*This paragraph caused an argument between Brittany and me over whether or not people will know who Cory Matthews and Shawn Hunter are. As part of the peace treaty, I am now required to say that these characters come from the hit television program “Boy Meets World,” which ran from 1993-2000 on ABC. And now I will also say that if you didn’t know who these characters were before reading this paragraph, you should avoid sitting next to me at weddings, graduation ceremonies, funerals, and any other event in which you are likely to be forced into awkward conversation with me. Because you won’t understand anything I’m talking about. Thank you.

10 responses so far

May 13 2008

About the T-Shirts

Published by under Travel

A little while ago, Brittany posted an announcement that we’re now able to sell Euros Ate My Dollars T-shirts through a company called CafePress.

When the T-shirts went on sale, we didn’t have anything in the way of a product sample from CafePress. Since then, my beautiful, supportive, fiscally liberal mother ordered herself the black version of one of the T-shirts, and we’ve discovered that the color fidelity on the black shirt leaves something to be desired.

My mother called CafePress to complain that the colors looked muted on her shirt, and they are sending her a replacement in gray, so we’ll soon see how that looks. Until then, if you’d like to buy a T-shirt, I would recommend choosing one of the lighter colors.

And if you’ve already received a dark shirt only to find that the color printing proved disappointing, then please note that CafePress seems to be willing to make the issue right. Give them a call at 1-877-809-1659, explain the difference between the online product photo and the actual shipped product, and hopefully they will work as hard to fix the issue as they did for my mother.

Updates to come, as soon as we can get a lighter version of the shirt in for inspection.

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Apr 28 2008

Homeward Bound

Published by under Travel

It’s almost over. Sigh.

We reluctantly left our beach paradise, boarded our very last overnight bus, and arrived in Bangkok (for the third time) this morning. Today, we’ve done some last minute shopping, indulged in our favorite Thai street foods, and kept each other from flipping out as best we can. Early tomorrow morning, we’re boarding a flight that will take us to Tokyo. Then one to San Francisco. Then New York. Then Richmond. Four flights. Thirty-six hours. Yeah, it’s really going to suck.

I am giddy to be returning home. We absolutely cannot wait to see our friends and families. I’ve realized during this trip just how lucky I am to have such wonderful people at home TO miss. Thankfully, we’ll have many opportunities over the coming weeks to see everyone — weddings, graduations, birthdays… First up (as in NEXT weekend!), I’m honored to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of my dear friend/former college roommate, Allison, to Evan, who’s a pretty cool dude even though he went to Virginia Tech. I can’t believe we’re all grown up and getting married. Long gone are the days when I’d overhear Allison, alone in her room, making fart noises with her hands and laughing to herself.

Do you know what else I’m doing at home? I’m going to get in MY car and DRIVE it. I’m going to turn on the radio and be able to understand what they’re saying. And if I want to call someone? I WILL. I’ll reach into my bag, pull out my cell phone, and call them. Playing this scene in my head right now is blowing my mind.

On the other hand, I am desperately sad the trip is over. So much so that it makes me feel sick to my stomach whenever I think about it. I’m terrified that I’ll never be able to do anything like this again, and that I’ll forget all the things I came to learn were important to me over the course of these eight months. Mostly, I’m just going to miss waking up every morning with no idea what the day will bring.

Because we’re not ready to let go of our trip JUST YET, we’re going to continue posting from home in sort of a “Tales We Never Told” series. We also have many videos we never uploaded. So, stay tuned!

We’ll see you in Virginia…

10 responses so far

Apr 20 2008


Published by under Travel

We have (finally) added restaurant reviews to our Trip Planning section! It is incomplete, like most of the other sections, but thanks to the expense and irregularity of internet access around here, we’ve reluctantly realized we’re going to have to wait until we’re back home to update the sections completely.

Secondly, we’re excited to bring to you AWESOME EUROS ATE MY DOLLARS T-SHIRTS. We’ve been working on a logo since Greece, but only now getting around to doing anything with it. Combining my rockin’ computer skillz and Ben’s love of vintage video games, it officially makes us the least cool people you know.

Visit our CafePress store to check out the tees … we hope to offer more products in the very near future!


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